Merciful Vices

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Chapter 8

Heather,

To say I’m moving on from you feels sacrilegious. Instead, I’ll say, I sometimes go from day to night without your shadow on me.

Yours,

Charlotte

*************************************************

After a long bath Charlotte wrapped herself in the robe she’d evidently forgotten to return to Tara. As she made her way upstairs she heard Mr. Cabarro talking in his study. She didn’t recognize the replying voice. She tiptoed soundlessly up to the doorway.

“These guns will give our men every advantage imaginable. This will be the kind of war no one survives.”

“Our families have managed peace for so long in Italy. Is this massacre really necessary, Gio?” The stranger replied. He addressed Mr. Cabarro respectfully but casually. Charlotte had never heard anyone call him by his first name.

“This land is ripe for the taking. We could single-handedly control the criminal world of this whole country if we play our cards right.” Though he spoke quietly Charlotte could hear the excitement in Mr. Cabarro’s voice.

“The Romano’s are playing nice, for now. I believe Kane is the only one here, but have no doubts, my boy, they will take us down given half the chance.”

The other man sighed, he sounded annoyed. Charlotte jumped when she heard footsteps turn towards the door. She scurried upstairs.

She paced her room slowly. Kane. The Cabarros aimed to take out their competitors. Kane and his family? Her reasons for being here were becoming more clear now. Kane was doing the same thing. Instead of importing destructive new guns, he was fishing for information. Something he could use to bring the Cabarro family to its knees.

Charlotte thought of Tara and how fond she had become of her. She thought of the night with Kane. She also thought, briefly, of whatever affect these families would have on her country. America had crime as it was now, but she had a feeling that a few gangs and wayward cowboys were nothing compared to the kind of organized crime that these families promised. The guns were proof of that.

This thought passed though. Replaced by curiosity and hunger. She could be coming in at the ground of something incredible.

She threw on some clothes and made her way to Tara’s room. Tara stirred when the door creaked.

“Oh. I didn’t mean to wake you, Darlin’. I just wanted to let you know I’m riding into town. I’ll be back tomorrow. Do you need anything?”

Tara pulled her blanket over her head and groaned, “Don’t forget Loverboy’s jacket.”

The streets were dark and uncharacteristically quiet as Charlotte rode. She was not concerned, she knew these streets well enough, she could make this trip blindfolded.

Kane’s house stood dark when she arrived and she wondered if she should have waited for morning, but Kane answered only minutes after she had knocked.

“Charlotte. What an unladylike time to visit a suiter.” He teased.

“I had to talk to you.”

Worry sullied his neutral expression, “Are you okay?” He looked her over.

She shooed his hands, “I’m fine. I overheard a conversation Mr. Cabarro thought was private. I think it’s time you tell me exactly what is going on here.”

Kane sighed, ”Cazzo. Fine. Let’s go to the kitchen.”

Charlotte leaned against the counter and Kane moved to stand over her.

“I admire your ability to get straight to business, Miss Locke, but can’t I tempt you with a distraction?” He purred.

She pushed him off in part to make a point but mostly to stop that very distraction from working. Kane rolled his eyes which made her laugh. He waved her into a chair and poured them each a drink.

“Have you ever heard of the Mafia?”

Over several hours Kane explained in detail the two families that had a stranglehold on all of Italy’s most elicit trades. Police called them, the Mafia and acronym of an old Italian warcry

“Morte Alla Francia Italia Anele” - Death to France is Italy’s cry.

The two families had a tense and fragile truce. With both their sights set on America that truce was wavering.

When Kane stopped his explanation Charlotte refilled their glasses, “So why not just have them killed. I’ve had ample opportunity.”

Kane’s eyes darkened with something she could only call lust, and Charlotte felt genuine fear again, like the first day they had met. She realized just how much he enjoyed all of this.

“Miss Tara may be Gio’s only heir but there are plenty of people willing and able to step up to her position. It’s not enough to pick off leaders one by one. I need to destabilize their whole organization. Besides, with what you’ve told me I am in no position to go picking fights. I have a few men, and dare I say, you, on my side.”

Charlotte only nodded in response.

“It sounds like Gio has, not only, his very capable heir but also his Caporegime. His right-hand man.” Kane added when Charlotte looked lost, “Not to mention a small army.”

Charlotte tried to process all the information that he had just dumped on her.

“Mr. Cabarro called this war.” She said, sounding more afraid than she cared to admit.

“It is. I wouldn’t blame you if, after our deal is done, you cut and run.” He held her gaze looking for an answer to a question he hadn’t asked. Her calm demeanor returned.

“Kane. I want in.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I want in. Not as a way to sort out my idiot brother’s financial fuck ups, but as a fully-fledged member. I’ve already proved myself as a loyal informant and I happen to know you’re in need of a good Caporegime.”

She was deadly serious but her haughty American accent made the Italian word sound absurd. He could barely hide his smirk.

“I have good Capos, and when they get here they will not be impressed to find a little blonde girl stepping on their toes.”

“I can make believers of them.”

Kane did laugh this time, but he knew she was right. The news of the guns was big. The Cabarros were preparing for a hell of a fight, and it’d be a while before his men joined him.

“I can’t give you that title, not yet. But consider yourself a trusted employee. Your brother’s debt will still be covered, as promised.”

Charlotte was thrilled but kept her face stoic. This must have been how Heather felt working again. She felt guilty now for not understanding at the time, but she was starting to think everything had led her right to where she needed to be.

She hadn’t noticed Kane standing or moving behind her chair. He draped her long hair over one shoulder and kissed the exposed skin of her neck.

“Don’t think that what we do behind closed doors means you will be treated any differently than the rest of my men. I will kill you if you fuck up or fuck me over.” With that, he offered his arm and led her upstairs.

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